COLUMBIA — By almost any measure the Missouri softball team has had a successful start to its season.
The Tigers are ranked No. 12 in the country with a 13-2 record. They lead all Big 12 Conference teams in hitting with a .332 team average and in pitching with a 0.92 ERA. The team scores almost seven runs a game and five times has won in less than seven innings.
No. 12 Missouri (13-2) vs. SIU Edwardsville (10-3)
WHEN: 2 p.m and 4 p.m.
WHERE: University Field
EXTRA POINTS: The Tigers are 2-0 at home this season.
SIU Edwardsville is playing its first season at the NCAA Division I level.
There is one area, though, where Missouri has fallen short. The Tigers have yet to fill the void left by Amanda Renth and Jen Bruck, the program's two leading home run hitters.
Missouri entered its game against No. 4 UCLA on Saturday in San Diego with only three home runs this season. The Bruins had 35, though they had played six more games.
What was even more surprising were the players responsible for the team's power. Rhea Taylor, Julie Silver and Andee Allen are three players who hit a combined five home runs a season ago.
The Tigers lost 2-1 to UCLA on what Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine called an "unfortunate" play. With a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, a pitch from freshman Chelsea Thomas bounced off the the catcher's chest protector and rolled just far enough for the runner to break the tie and end the game.
“They were mad because they knew that they were as good as UCLA, and they didn’t want to lose like that," Earleywine said on Tuesday. "UCLA, on the other hand, they were glad it was over. That was a good sign for all of us, because that's such a storied program, and to be able to not only play with them, but to feel like you got robbed because you didn’t win — that’s a pretty good sign."
Missouri stranded nine runners against the Bruins, an 11-time national champion and a team Missouri has never beaten in 10 tries.
Earleywine sounded confounded but not overly concerned about his team's power struggles just yet.
“I'm very surprised and also surprised that without the home runs, we’ve been able to score as many runs as we have," he said. "The bright side is that we’re capable of hitting a lot more home runs than what we are. (Freshman first baseman) Ashley Flemming is a kid that can hit the ball out of the park with regularity, Micheala Minner, Lindseay Ubrun, those are all three home-run type kids that haven’t really got hot yet, so that’s the good thing. You can’t keep those kids down for that long, so I have a feeling they’re going to get hot when it counts."
Minner hit her first home run of the season on Sunday, bringing the team's total to four on the season, which is still last among Big 12 teams.
"We just need a new hitting coach," deadpanned Earleywine, who has appointed himself to the position. "If they could get rid of me, we’d be fine."